Documentary shows how small-town Davids can take down corporate Goliaths
Myles Rademan, longtime leader in Park City, appears in ‘High Country’
- When: 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3
- Where: Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.
- Cost: Free
- Web: parkcityfilm.org.
Conor Hagen’s documentary “High Country” is a David and Goliath story that takes place in Crested Butte, Colorado, one of Park City’s mountain resort brethren.
The film, which Park City Film will screen for free on Monday, Oct. 3, at Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, is about the determination of residents from a small mining town that fell onto hard times before rising again as a winter-sports mecca, said longtime Parkite Myles Rademan, who used to live in Crested Butte and served as the town’s city planner.
“The film is about a time in the late ’70s and early ’80s when the town that fought for itself to save itself from a big mining operation,” said Rademan, coordinator of Leadership Park City, a community program that provides class members long-term, group-oriented learning opportunities. “Most of the events took place in the ’70s and early ’80s, and even though it’s particular to Crested Butte in that sense, it’s about any community that fights for what it wants.”
To put the battle, which went on for more than 40 years, into perspective, Rademan said people should understand how unique Crested Butte was at the time.
“It was very isolated and quite small when we moved there in 1972,” he said. “There were 380 people when we lived there, and it was up 9,000 feet.”
While the town was only 30 miles south of Aspen, across a mountain range, it took five hours to get there because travelers had to drive around the mountains, said Rademan, who became an influential staffer in Park City’s government after his time in Crested Butte.
“The coal mines which started in the 1800s had stopped producing in the 1950s, and then it went, like Park City, into a long decline until skiing started in the late 1960s,” he said. “Crested Butte, like Park City, had fallen on hard times, but had the potential of becoming something more.”
During that time, the town became a refuge for “all kinds of ne’er-do-wells,” according to Rademan.
“We had hippies, draft dodgers and people who wanted to be off the grid, even though there wasn’t much of a grid back then,” he said. “If you wanted to disappear, Crested Butte was a great place, like Park City in the early ’70s. What happened in 1972 was the hippies took over the town and that’s how I got hired as the town planner.”
Rademan, who is interviewed in the film, knew Crested Butte was special.
“It’s a gem, a Shangri-La, that had been untouched for 40 to 50 years, and it wasn’t famous like Aspen or Sun Valley,” he said. “So we started to plan. We created a national historic area like Park City’s downtown, and we created a government.”
Things changed in 1977 when a corporate mining company, AMAX, announced it had discovered the world’s third largest deposit of molybdenum, Rademan said.
“Molybdenum is a rare metal, and they were going to mine it,” he said. “But they weren’t talking about pick-and-shovel mining. They were talking about 30,000 tons a day with conveyor belts and 10,000 miners and filling our valleys with waste rock.”
The residents, including Rademan, didn’t want that to happen.
“So, this film is about the fight we put up,” he said. “The thing was that we were good at exploiting the few resources we had. We were a ragtag gang of crazies who had a lot of talent, and this gave us something to do.”
The battle caught the attention of national media, and inspired a nonfiction book, “The Town That Said, ‘Hell, No,’” by Paul Andersen, who was the editor of the newspaper in Crested Butte, before becoming a columnist for The Aspen Times, Rademan said.
“When Conor finished the film, they invited me to some screenings and panel discussions, because I was pivotal in the fight during the early days,” he said. “After seeing the film and talking with Paul, I thought we ought to bring the film here. So I asked them if they would be interested in coming to Park City.”
Rademan reached out to Katharine Wang, Park City Film executive director, to see if she would like to bring the film to town.
“I used to live in Crested Butte, so it’s part of a world that I, personally, have a great affinity for,” Wang said.
Rademan also talked with Andersen and Hagen, who agreed to participate in a post-screening discussion.
“While the story talks about Crested Butte, you will recognize the characters, even if you don’t know their names,” Rademan said. “Every town, especially Park City, has those kinds of characters.”
For information about the Park City Film’s partnership with Leadership Park City and the free screening of “High Country” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3, at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, visit parkcityfilm.org.
This year’s concerts will also feature a guest, B. Murphy, who was part of The Platters in the 1970s.
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